there’s no peeing in the war room

I would think that you would probably have to be living in a cave somewhere in Afghanistan to not have heard about, or seen the video of,  a group of Marines urinating on some Taliban corpses.

Personally, I’m a tad ambivalent about the whole thing.

Definition of AMBIVALENCE
1: simultaneous and contradictory attitudes or feelings (as attraction and repulsion) toward an object, person, or action

2 a : continual fluctuation (as between one thing and its opposite) b : uncertainty as to which approach to follow

On one side: It’s entirely unprofessional. It’s arguably “desecration” in a legal sense, but a far cry from say; cutting off body parts, burning them, hanging them from bridges or putting heads on pikes. It has resulted in a political and media firestorm and it will probably end in a Court Martial just to appease the political and media gods.

On the other side: Yeah, these guys did something wrong; but something not exactly unheard of  in the annals of War, and in the scope of military history something somewhat tame. While it is something we shouldn’t condone, the hue and cry for these Marines heads on pikes by the media (and youtube/facebook crowd of “never been there’s…never will’s”) falls somewhat flat on me.

On one side of the media coin a “former soldier” who goes on a killing spree back home is a poor victim of PTSD; while on the other side, these Marines who are STILL IN COMBAT are given the evil villan treatment. If it bleeds or pees it leads I guess.

IMO this should result in a Company Grade Article 15 (maybe a Field Grade for the stupidity of taping/allowing themselves to be taped and publicizing it) for the people involved.

On yet another side: Nobody seems to care about the whole process of what made these bodies, well, bodies in the first place. It’s like someone saying:

Hmmm, look dead bodies – OH MY GOD THEY ARE PEEING ON THEM!!!

The “outrage” seems strangely misplaced.

A good post to read can be found over on The Silver Tongue Blog. The author there says:


Note that no one, on either side (that Times article I linked to above contains quotes from Afghanis that I’ve omitted for brevity’s sake) seems to view the creating of the bodies as in any way problematic. It’s the peeing that’s the problem. Now, again, without downgrading the severity of the actions of the Marines in the video, I just want to throw it out there and say that if someone were to shoot me and then pee on my corpse, the peeing wouldn’t really be my biggest beef. It’s not like my dying thought after being shot would be “I hope they don’t pee on me after this.”

What I’m getting at is that upholding standards and values that create bodies but mandate particular treatment of them afterwards maintains the idea of war as a gentleman’s game, something engaged in with a degree of civility and mutual respect. I’m not saying that war should just be some free-for-all where people can pee on whatever corpses they want all willy nilly or whatever, and I’m not even saying that outrage at said peeing is misplaced in any way. I’m also not attempting to put down everyone who did a tour in any of our like jillion wars over there and peed only where they were supposed to. I’m just saying that the state of being “at war” with someone is an ugly business to begin with, and that upon some reflection I’ve considered that maybe our collective outrage over this isn’t really about who did what to whose corpses, but maybe over being confronted with the grim reality of those corpses in the first place, and our disappointment over the horrible things people can be driven to do when they can’t handle the pressure of being forced to create a corpse or become one.


….which kind of nicely encapsulates my opinion on the matter too.

In the end what really worries me is the nonchalance about being videotaped and the lack of common sense and good judgement involved in putting it on the internet.

If after a brutal firefight a group of Marines urinate on some corpses as a cathartic and nobody but them knows about it (how would anybody else know? Its not like urine on the body would even be noticed by anybody shortly thereafter)…I wouldn’t loose too much sleep about THAT. Sure it’s still wrong and a Gunny should kick some ass if he sees it, but TAPING it and putting it on the internet? Nobody thought THAT was a bad idea? That worries me.


10 thoughts on “there’s no peeing in the war room”

  1. I’m with you on this Tom. It’s not good – so it’s a bad thing to do. But, within the totally of warfare and ‘atrocities’ it’s a lot less ‘wrong’ than beheading a civilian contractor on video and posting it up on YouTube. And, as you said, what concerns me more than the act is the attitude around the videoing/publicizing of the event. If there is this little digression about this event, how casual are people being about sensitive/secure information?

    1. I know…I’m not saying they don’t deserve some punishment, but lets have some perspective. Bust em, take some pay, additional duty…fine. Military prison or a dishonorable? I wouldn’t.

  2. Great article and great discussion; I’ve noticed that the people with the most “breath” (loosely used here) of the situation are those who are either current military, ex-military, and/or people who have had experience out in the field (combat journalists, what not). Having not been in the military, I suppose my question to myself as well as to others would be: “What would you do if you were in the situation?”

    I may not agree with you in the long run – but certainly you have presented one of the more “real” discussions.

    With this in mind, I’m curious to know what your views are on the recent deaths of two American serviceman of Chinese descent recently. If you are not aware, I will be more than happy to bring you up to speed.

      1. Lance Cpl. Harry Lew (USMC)

        Pvt. Danny Chen (US Army)

        Long story short, both young men were in situations where they were the minority (or the only minority soldier) in majority all-white volunteer units. Both committed suicide as a result of the physical, mental, and racist treatment/hazing that they received from their fellow Marines/soldiers.

      2. So far, the only versions I’ve read/heard imply that there may have been race related motives/race hate in these cases, but to be honest, there is SUCH a diversity in the military these days, I have a hard time believing that race was the source of the hazing that these two ethnically asian servicemen suffered, personally. In one case, I believe the Army story, one of the ‘top soldiers’ in the unit was also an Asian/American.

        Being in the military is a tough environment and isn’t too ‘politically correct’ most of the time. I remember people ‘playing dozens’ (battle of insults) and there were no punches pulled. Short, fat, male, female, ethnicity, religion, moms, money, pets, hygiene… there was no topic off the table for the ‘game.’ Most of the time it was pretty good natured, but the point is that ‘race’ in the military is just another thing that people may identify and use, but it usually isn’t THE thing that causes things like this.

        I don’t know these two servicemen so this is NOT a comment on them specifically, but in my experience, the source/motive for most ‘hazing’ had to do with performance.

  3. prmartin – I feel that question among the Asian-American community (in this case among the Chinese immigrant community) is not “why is it happening”, it’s more of “why is this still happening now?”

    To my personal and professional guesses, the nerve that these two incidents have touched are the fact that the ethnicities/race of these two serviceman were involved in the final days before their respective suicides. As I mentioned earlier, it’s the question of “why is race still an issue” when among the reports coming from both incidents, that although performance was lacking – race “baiting” if you will, was ultimately what pushed these two servicemen over the cliff.
    From friends who have served I get the picture that the military is mainly a world of type-A personalities. I also understand that the military is very un-PC (I’m a very anti-PC person myself) but I believe that there’s a line between letting someone know you’re playing with them and beating them down with racist bullshit.

    And yes, the military is becoming more diverse as we speak. There have been serviceman of Asian descent who have made names for themselves in their tours of duty (Staff Sgt. Daniel Kim and Maj.Chester Wong for example). These examples were before Lance Cpl. Lew and Pvt. Chen. So to see suicides such as these goes back to my earlier point.

    I hope that presents my point of view well. As for the chain of command info, I don’t know. I’ve read a few stories and responses and there haven’t info about the higher-ups.

    1. The problem, in part, with understanding the ‘why is this still happening now?’ question from an immigrant community (in this case Asian/Chinese) is lack of cultural awareness/understanding.

      I’m 1/2 Japanese (Okinawan – as in Mr. Miyagi from the original Karate Kid) on my mother’s side and “Euro-American” from my Dad’s side (Irish, English, German, French). My Dad was stationed on Okinawa in the USAF and brought my Mom back to the States in the early 70’s.

      I say all that because when I joined the military, I had a couple of advantages as a first generation ‘Asian/American.’ My dad was “American” (as in culturally indoctrinated) and also a Veteran. So I was subconsciously being prepped and conditions for what the military life was going to be like. I understood (as much as a snot nosed 19 year old can) what was going to happen.

      Now, I don’t ‘look Japanese’ to be honest, so I didn’t get picked on for being ‘Japanese’ so much as “Hey you don’t look Japanese, so you’re not really Japanese” kind of tone (IF I got picked on for that at all).

      I hesitate to assume that the ultimate or ‘last straw’ that drove these two servicemen to suicide had to have been anti- Asian slurs/bullying, since there were, realistically, a lot of other things going on since they were deployed to Afg, and supposedly poor performing troops. They happened to also be Asian.

      I’d want to do more review/research into suicides on deployment as the MAIN topic and then see what the cross sections of ethnicities and/or hazing concerns may have contributed to those.

      It’s easy to start to see racism everywhere when you start a news article with “They were Chinese …” and then go into the rest.

      1. You’re right that the word “racism” and the triggers of the word in this day in age can be easily hyped up and blown out of proportion (I’ve seen it happen myself). While there are conditions outside our own individual control – such as how people view us, it also falls on the individual (regardless of skin color, ethnic background, culture, etc.) to stand up for themselves and make the appropriate gestures to make sure they aren’t being pushed around.

        For me, I feel this is one of the few, “true” situations where things got out of hand. I’ve never been the target of any insults concerning the fact that I’m of Chinese descent or “not American” (whatever the hell that means), and I see from what you wrote as well that we were lucky to not experience any of that.

      2. I agree this is a case of things getting out of hand. That’s where I would look to my NCO’s for grabbing situations like this by the neck and putting a grinding halt to them before they got this bad, but I wasn’t there, I haven’t operated with these units/men/women and I definitely haven’t seen the type of action/stress/operations that these servicemen/women are seeing so it’s not for me to judge them. They all have to answer to their consciences, the UCMJ and their fellow servicemen/women…

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